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Old 12-06-2003, 07:46 AM   #1
ProInfoSports
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Default Osu/usc

USC -21 over Oregon State

The USC Trojans take their #2 ranking onto the field Saturday as Pete Carroll's squad closes out the regular season at home against Oregon State. The Trojans will enjoy the comforts of the Coliseum in Los Angeles, riding a 14-game home winning streak, as they play for an outright Pac-10 title and possible Sugar Bowl berth. USC has already locked up at least a Rose Bowl berth and is trying to gain entrance into the national championship against probable opponent Oklahoma. Meanwhile, the Beavers are already on their way to the Las Vegas Bowl, but wouldn't mind playing the role of spoiler here. Oregon State had a bye last week and is coming off a 34-20 loss at Oregon on November 22nd. USC has won seven in a row and also enjoyed a bye last week after blowing up UCLA 47-22. USC holds a huge advantage in the overall series with OSU, 55-8-4. Last year, the Trojans posted a 22-0 shutout against Oregon State in the Coliseum, while OSU's last win in this series in Los Angeles came in 1960, and USC has won 28 of the last 29 meetings, overall.

The Beavers have been able to move the ball on the ground and through the air this season against most opponents. The passing game is responsible for just over 300 ypg, but it is the running of talented junior tailback Steven Jackson that gives most teams reason for concern. The 6-3, 235-pounder has been one of the top rushers in the nation since he took over the duties in Corvallis and this year is no exception. Jackson is averaging 121.3 yards per game and has already amassed 1,334 yards and 14 TDs. When he is running well, he certainly make QB Derek Anderson's job easier in the passing game. Anderson has connected on under 50 percent of his passes and has a penchant for throwing the errant pass, as he has 19 interceptions on the season. He has been especially poor in road games. The OSU defensive unit has been effective this season, yielding 21.4 points per game, and has been rock-solid against the run. Foes are netting just 89 yards per game on the ground against this team on a mere 2.5 yards per carry. The pass defense has been good as well, allowing just over 200 yards per game. Both units will be put to the most severe test of the season in this game by USC.

Like Oregon State, the Trojans have had great success both on the ground and through the air this season, only more so. The scoring has been through the roof over the course of the year, including a string of six straight games with 40+ points entering this contest. This was supposed to be an off year as compared to last season, considering the loss of Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer, but Pete Carroll has found a more than adequate replacement under center in Matt Leinart. The 6-5 220-pound sophomore has exceeded all expectations this season and is making his own run at the coveted award. Leinart has completed 64 percent of his passes thus far, for 2,951 yards and 30 TDs. It certainly has helped to have one of the game's best wideouts to throw to in First-Team All-American Mike Williams. The ground game has worked this year thanks to contributions from a number of youngsters. Freshman LenDale White leads the team with 694 yards on 5.6 ypc, but sophomore Hershel Dennis has been good as well, with 639 yards and four scores. The USC defense is chock-full of All-American caliber performers and has given up only 319 yards of total offense per game. No one has had success moving the ball on the ground against USC this season, and OSU's Jackson will certainly have his work cut out for him here, as USC us allowing just 614 yards per game on the ground, on a minute 1.9 yards per carry. The pass defense has been a little more forgiving, but that is a product of the sensational play against the run, and enjoying large leads forcing teams to go to the air in vain attempts to play catch-up.

Pete Carroll has been a master-motivator since stepping foot on campus and gets the very most from his talented team. The goal of playing for a national championship is almost within reach, and the Trojans won't let it even get close to slipping through their fingers. In Oregon State's three Pac-10 losses to Washington, Washington State and Oregon it has committed 12 turnovers, many of those from QB Anderson. He simply can't handle the pressure of the big game, especially when Steven Jackson isn't dominating. Last season, the Trojans limited Jackson to 67 yards on 15 carries in the 22-0 victory. USC jumped out to a decent lead and Oregon State became predictable with the pass. Then the Trojans blasted Derek Anderson, who completed only 8 of 30 passes for 80 yards, was sacked four times and lost two fumbles.

In looking at some numbers, the Beavers are only 2-7 ATS off a SU/ATS loss under HC Riley, while USC is 13-2 ATS off 2+ SU wins, 10-1 ATS at home off 2+ SU wins, and 6-1 ATS in their final home games. This will be Senior Night for the Trojans and they will be supremely focused, while the Beavers don't have nearly the same motivation. Once they get down, they will lose the will to fight. Three TDs is a lot to cover, but USC has beat the spread in their last dozen conference wins, and should put this one out of reach before the 4th quarter. With the Trojans trying to stay one step ahead of the LSU Tigers, there will be no let up as they bury the Beavers.

PROJECTED FINAL SCORE: USC 38 OREGON STATE 13
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